Look What the Fog Rolled in

Paris Marx : bolditamlic – excerpt

Why Uber’s Expansion Plans Would Make City Life Unbearable

Uber’s riders earn an average of 70% more than the median income. If Uber were subsidized, the wealthy would reap the benefits.

Public transit is indispensible in any urban environment. It provides people from all walks of life an affordable way to move around the city. It reduces the need for cars, resulting in less traffic and lower carbon emissions. But with the encroachment of Uber and other ride-hailing apps, are the benefits of public transit in jeopardy?

Uber’s growth has been exponential as its footprint has expanded globally. The company has spent more on lobbyists in California than Facebook and Apple did combined — all to ensure that it isn’t subject to regulations that apply to other transportation companies.

While some local authorities continue to fight Uber’s predatory expansion, others are embracing it. In September, Dublin became the first municipality in California to subsidize Uber rides for residents, following similar deals with towns in Florida that cover 25 percent of Uber fares to train stations and 20 percent of fares for other rides…

When public authorities subsidize Uber, it’s wealthier residents who get the largest benefit — the very people who least need subsidized transit…(more)(more)(more)



Uber, the Conference of Mayors, and the taxi drivers

by 48hills – excerpt

Expect protests from (real) cab drivers as Uber helps host US Conference of Mayors — just as that company is getting hit for failing to treat its workers as employees

JUNE 18, 2015 — On Monday, June 22, Mayor Ed Lee will lead the Conference of US Mayors on a tour of Uber headquarters. It’s part of his ongoing promotion of tech in the city; other tour locations include Autodesk and Twitter.

The Uber tour comes just as that company is taking some serious political and legal hits that could undermine the entire concept of the “sharing economy” – at least on the level of employment.

Companies like Uber try to get away with keeping the number of actual employees low – most of the people who make money for the outfit are drivers who are treated as independent contractors.

That saves Uber (and Lyft, and TaskRabbit, and so many other outfits) the cost of providing health insurance, disability, workers compensation, retirement and all of the other benefits that typically come with real employment.

But the regulators are starting to crack down.

Why the US Conference of Mayors would want to make a company that has been operating in so many cities in violation of local laws a stop on a goodwill tour is a bit confusing – except, no: Uber is a big sponsor of the mayor’s conference.

But the mayors who choose to go to Uber will be greeted by angry taxi drivers – real taxi drivers – who will circle the HQ, hold a press conference out front, and hand out leaflets.

That’s going to part of series of protests against Uber that will focus on the Conference of Mayors. The drivers will be out protesting Lee’s Saturday speech to the conference and the City Hall party Friday night. And on Monday they will be at Uber.

As Ruach Graffis, a longtime driver who works with the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance, told me, “we aren’t against the Uber drivers, because they’re workers like us. But we want Uber to play by the same rules as everyone else.”

There’s some indication now that Uber may have to act more like a real employer – and business analysts say that could deeply damage the company’s bottom line. The state Labor Commission just ruled that Uber drivers are not independent contractors but employees. The ruling applies to only one driver, who will get a little more than $4,000 in back pay, and will be appealed. Ultimately, the question will wind up in court – and possibly at the state Legislature and Congress.

A similar case against FedEx just wound up with a settlement that’s going to encourage drivers (and their lawyers) to pursue a lot more of these claims.

The tech folks, most of whom are young, love the model of everyone working as a freelancer, and sympathetic economists talk about how most people these days can look forward to having dozens of jobs (or gigs) over their lifetimes. That’s all fine and good for some, but as former Labor Secretary Robert Reich puts it in the NYT:

“For anybody who has to pay the bills and has a family, having no labor protections and no job security is at best a mixed blessing. At worst, it is a nightmare. Obviously some workers prefer to be independent contractors — but mostly they take these jobs because they cannot find better ones.”

So the existing laws, which make it hard for companies to turn employees into freelancers, are starting to come up against the great wealth of companies that live by keeping workers off the payroll and not paying benefits.

I assume the Uber lobbyists are already plotting their legislative strategy… (more)

CalBike Looks Back at This Year’s Legislative Efforts–and Ahead to the Next

by : CalBike – excerpt

The California Bicycle Coalition–CalBike–supports local bicycle advocacy efforts to build better bike networks. It does this in part through its work on state legislation that promotes bicycling and via its efforts to increase the amount of funding available for building better bike infrastructure.

California is poised to become one of the most bike-innovative states in the nation. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) got a new mission and vision statement this year that is more bicycle friendly, and endorsed progressive street designs. A new State Transportation Agency is shaking up how California traditionally thinks of transportation, and we got to see the first rounds of the Governor’s new “Active Transportation Program.”

While the 2014 legislative session wasn’t ideal in every way, our policymakers took huge steps forward, most importantly with exciting advances toward modern street design. You can find links to exact bill language, fact sheets, and letters to and from lawmakers at the California Bicycle Coalition website here

More Funding Approved, but Not Much
More funding is essential to building the infrastructure California needs to get more people to ride bikes. It is also key to economic sustainability. Active transportation infrastructure creates more jobs during construction and supports the local economy during its lifetime.

At $129 million, or barely 1 percent of the state’s transportation budget for biking and walking combined, funding for bike infrastructure is paltry at best.

We had limited success this year with our efforts to increase bicycle funding. Despite our advocacy, there was no increase in the Active Transportation Program (ATP). The formulas for spending cap-and-trade revenue did make active transportation eligible for about $65 million this year and up to 10 percent ($200-$500 million) in future years, but there are no guarantees that it will be spent on active transportation. Increasing and protecting the amounts eligible for active transportation in the ATP, in cap-and-trade funds, and from other sources is a goal for next year

The Governor did indicate support for more bike funding by signing AB 1183, which allows a $5 vehicle registration surcharge dedicated to bicycle infrastructure. Originally proposed as a tax against bikes, the bill was amended — thanks to our work and that of Senate Governance & Finance Chair Lois Wolk — to become a vehicle license surcharge.

AB 1183 is more of a symbolic statement than a practical funding source, because local agencies would need two-thirds voter approval to impose the surcharge. Until the minimum threshold to pass tax-related ballot initiatives is lowered, this surcharge is most likely not going to be a viable source of revenue… (more)

Emails show ‘handshake agreement’ for tech buses using SF transit stops

by : sfexaminer – excerpt

Emails from The City’s transit agency over the past three years indicate that a “handshake agreement” exists for commuter shuttles to use Muni stops without being cited.

The correspondence also shows that there was internal discussion at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency about whether to ticket for the illegal use of the public-bus facilities, while companies and their lobbyists called for leniency and requested citation dismissals.

The inquiries include emails sent to the SFMTA by shuttle providers and the companies that use shuttles…

Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation, a large provider of corporate shuttles, sent a Jan. 24 email to Ed Reiskin, SFMTA transportation director, after $3,000 in fines were received since April 2013.

“As you probably know, Bauer’s IT was an early provider of corporate commuter shuttle transportation dating back nearly ten years. At that time, we entered into a handshake agreement with SFMTA to use Muni stops,” wrote Michael Watson, Bauer’s vice president of marketing.

In an earlier email, Watson also referenced an “agreement.”

“As I assume you know, we have had a ‘handshake’ agreement with SFMTA for many years that allowed us to use the stops under a ‘Muni First’ condition,” the email said…

Paul Rose, an SFMTA spokesman, said his agency was “not aware of any handshake agreement.”

The identified representative of Google was lobbyist Ross Guehring of the well-known local firm Barbary Coast Consulting, who wrote in an April 10, 2012, email, “I think it would go a long way if these tickets could somehow be reined in during this policy development process.”…

On Jan. 21, the agency’s board of directors approved an 18-month pilot program that will allow shuttles to use 200 Muni stops for $1 per stop per day. A determination that the program didn’t need to undergo an extensive environmental review is being appealed to the Board of Supervisors, with a vote scheduled for April 1… (more)

SF Transit Agency must cease questionable-practices/
Corporate Shuttle Road Kill